Now that I have downloaded PSP firmware version 2.8, and successfully updated my PSP (now showing the correct version when prompted), and having spent some considerable time finding a wireless hotspot, and getting access to it I have enabled the WMA playback option. However, any WMA files I download now seem to be protected by someting called DRM – a Windows security system.
I completely understand your problem and don’t have good news about the solution. Worse, it’s a problem that’s by no means limited to the Sony PSP, but actually affects all Mp3 and music players, whether they’re Apple iPods, RCA Lyra devices, Creative Zen Micros or even cellphones. In a nutshell, digital versions of songs are too darn easily copied and the fear of completely killing the music industry has caused vendors to create protection systems that are a nightmare for even the most legitimate user.
What you’re talking about is Digital Rights Management, and it’s actually a variety of different systems that try to ensure that when you buy music from a particular digital outlet, you can only play it on devices that follow the rules of that particular DRM scheme.
For example, I commonly hear from people who buy songs off the Apple iTunes Music Store then find out that they can’t listen to them on their RCA Lyra Mp3 player because the iTMS digital rights management system requires that you listen to the song either within the iTunes program itself or on an iTunes-controlled device like an iPod or Motorola SLVR cell phone. Needless to say, these people can be darn frustrated, especially when they realize there’s no recourse, they don’t now own analog versions and they can’t get their money back.
This is by no way limited to iTunes, however. Check out Rhapsody, the Walmart Music Store, Musicmatch, Yahoo Music or even Audible and you’ll find that every digital music purchase you make has lots and lots of annoying limitations on use. Indeed, while Microsoft has promoted its PlaysForSure program as a consumer benefit, it’s really all about DRM too: a “PlaysForSure” device works with the Microsoft music DRM scheme. No more, no less. (and yes, you better believe that the upcoming Microsoft Zune will be a PlaysForSure device too)
There are some hackers who have figured out how to circumvent the common DRM schemes, but this is arguably illegal (though I think that if I buy the song, I should be able to push it onto any player device I’d like) and also just another of the security versus hackers arms race that we see in so many arenas. As fast as these things are figured out, the companies then promptly make a few tweaks and changes to make the hacks fail.
This is one reason that Sony keeps releasing apparently pointless PSP firmware updates, by the way. The smart folk who poke around with homebrew hacks to the PSP system are constantly being stymied by the Sony engineers. I find it baffling and stupid, actually, and wish Sony would just let us have community-written games in addition to the top-notch professional titles out there. But I’m just one voice…
Anyway, the long and short of it is that if you have music files that are DRM protected, then you’re out of luck getting them onto your PSP without lots of hassles and effort. You can try, for example, burning a physical “audio format” music CD of the songs, then re-rip the music hoping that it will scrub the DRM limitations off (that often works with iTunes music, for example) but it’s a major hassle, costs you physical media and lots of time.
Kinda makes those traditional physical audio CDs you buy at Tower Records or from Amazon.com seem like a pretty good value after all, doesn’t it?
Note: This Q&A was written by Drew “flyboy” Crouch of the AskDaveTaylor editorial team.